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Home /History / Most Popular Song Each Decade Since Kodak Was Founded

Most Popular Song Each Decade Since Kodak Was Founded

By Dillon Wallace

Film and music go together just like Forrest and Jenny – peas and carrots. As far back as the film industry goes, moving pictures have always been accompanied by music.

Even in its earliest days without sound, live orchestrated bands would often play as the film rolled.
For Kodak, this collaboration dates back more than a century ago – all the way to 1888. Which got us thinking. What were the most popular songs/genres of each decade since Kodak was founded? So open up your Spotify account and listen along as we stroll through the evolution of music over the last century.



During the last push of the Wild West, not too long after the Industrial Revolution, the most popular tunes of the 1880s were ragtime diddlies. Twenty years before the turn of the century, people were listening to these upbeat, intricate rhythms while dancing the cakewalk to the ‘misplaced beat.’ 



While ragtime was still popular by the turn of the century thanks to pioneers of the genre like Scott Joplin and his 1899 hit “Maple Leaf Rag,” marches also started becoming popular. Composers like John Phillips Sousa became incredibly popular for the seven marches he wrote during the 1890s.



The early 1900s was the peak of ragtime. In fact, by the time the new century rolled around, publishing operations grew out of existing houses in major cities proving just how viable the new music was as a business. Sales of pianos were boosted across the country and the recording industry ballooned. Joplin released another ragtime classic in 1902 with “The Entertainer.”



By about the mid 1910s, a new flavor of beat was made popular when Dixieland Jazz started to spread across the country. Originating in New Orleans from bands that would play funeral marches, Dixieland Jazz flipped those gloomy, funeral frown sounds upside down, adding new vigor and life to the music, like a celebration. The Original Dixieland Jass Band made history when they released the first jazz record ever issued with “Livery Stable Blues.”



By the 1920s, the decade was in full swing as it entered the “Jazz Age.” Gaining nationwide popularity, jazz ushered in a new era of tunes and iconic musicians. Everybody from Louis Armstrong (1924’s “Everybody Loves My Baby, but My Baby Don’t Love Nobody but Me”) and Fats Waller (1925’s “Squeeze Me”) to Duke Ellington (1928’s “Creole Love Call”) and Jelly Roll Morton (1924’s “King Porter Stomp”). It relied heavily on improvisation and pure talent.



Jazz’s popularity spilled over into the following decade, but it also evolved into what became known as big bands and swing. Musicians like Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman (“Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)”) and Glen Miller (“In the Mood”) rose to notoriety as popular bandleaders during the time. “Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland and Glen Miller might have been the song of the decade. It also might be one of the most covered songs ever. Just maybe.



By the end of World War II, the popularity and energy of big bands and swing had dwindled to the soothing sounds of crooners and vocal pop. And none other is more notorious than “Ol’ Blue  Eyes” himself, Frank Sinatra. Sinatra actually holds the unique distinction of singing the first Billboard #1 single, 1940’s “I’ll Never Smile Again. A record that went on to sell more than 900,000 copies – a monsterous success for the time.



In the 1950s, kids were ready for something a little more upbeat. Something that could really put the ‘hop’ in sock hop. Something that crooners just weren’t offering. You know, some hip swaying music. And they got just that with the emergence of Rock and Roll. The infectious energy of the music swept the decade, led in large part by the cool cat with all the right moves, Elivs Presley and his 1956 breakthrough single, “Heartbreak Hotel.”



When the 60s rolled around, the music industry really started to open up to multiple genres sharing popularity. Everything from rock and roll and bubblegum pop to funk, folk and soul became popular. But, if we’re being honest, the 60s were owned by one group and one group only. The Beatles, who rocked their mop tops on stage to worldwide popularity in 1964. Their biggest hit song of the decade … pick one.



Similarly to the 60s, more and more musicians meant more and more genres which meant more and more options. Whether it was funk, soul, hard rock or disco, the 70s had it all. And the late 70s even gave way to our first taste of hip-hop with the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” As for the biggest song of the decade, that’s tough to tell, but the honor for best album may have to go to Fleetwood Mac’s 1977’s Rumors.



As the technology kept cranking up, more genres and bands kept cranking out tunes. When the 80s hit, there seemed to be no more rules for what type of music could top the Billboard 100 list. From hair metal and punk to hip-hop and new wave, the 80s had it all in denim-cladded spades. But artist of the decade? That honor goes to the King of Pop himself,  Michael Jackson and his iconic 1982 album, Thriller.



It’s not common to find one song that defines an entire decade. That changes the music industry. But the 90s definitely had one, and it came from the unlikeliest of bands. Fed up with the bubblegum hair rock anthems and the overproduced pop, Nirvana’s trio of nondescript music saviors released a new grunge sound that grabbed the ears of angsty teens everywhere. Their smash hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is their definitive song and one that shaped the entire 90s.



People in the 90s ate up the raw, angsty grunge movement, but by the 2000s, things took a turn in the opposite direction. Listeners wanted something smoother, more upbeat, polished – something you could dance to at the bars and clubs. As a result, hip-hop and pop became the anthems for the new millennium ushered in by artists like Beyonce, Eminem, The Black Eyed Peas, and, well … Usher himself, who during the decade was the most successful artist with seven number-one hits, including “U Remind Me” and “Yeah!” (featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris). But if we’re talking top-selling artists, that honor belongs to the Real Slim Shady, Eminem, Marshall Mathers (whatever name he wanted to go by) with 32.2 million in combined sales and two albums in the decades’ top 10 list.



In the 2010s, one of music’s youngest genres absolutely blew up. Just four decades after its birth, hip-hop/rap took over the Billboard Hot 100 to become the most popular genre in the U.S. thanks to artists like Drake, Kanye West and more. It became so popular that the genre was infused into numerous other established genres like R&B, pop, rock – even folk and country (looking at you Nelly). But, although rap ruled the decade, the 10-year span belonged to Taylor Swift, who dominated the charts with critically-acclaimed hits like, “Shake It Off,” “Bad Blood,” “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” and “ME!” that spanned multiple platinum albums.


Yep, a century (plus some) of music really goes to show you the evolution of the industry. And if you’ve got old cassette tapes – mixtapes from your summer camp crush or just good ole fashioned home recordings – we can help you preserve them through our professional digitization service. At Kodak, film and music have been around for generations. Let us help make sure your old film and audio formats do the same.
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